Feast of the Holy Family
This weekend, the Sunday between Christmas and the New Year, the Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
The Book of Sirach supplies the first reading. Sirach was composed in an effort to reinforce trust in, and loyalty to, the revelation of God. When Sirach was written, Jews were beset by attacks upon their beliefs that came from a prevailing hostile and pagan culture. Allurements to abandon old beliefs were everywhere. After all, those persons who lived the good life were pagans.
In particular, the Jewish concept of the holiness of the home and of marriage was threatened. In many pagan settings, in homes and in most marriages, love was absent, or at best coincidental.
So, Sirach affirms that first and foremost, love for God must be in the lives of families. If this love exists, all else that is good falls into place. Spouses love each other. Parents love their children. Children love their parents. Love is positive, active and productive in all things. One spouse thinks of the other. Parents think of the children. Children imitate parents. The cycle is wonderful in its unfolding of peace, strength and genuine growth.
For its second reading, the Church presents the Epistle to the Colossians. As was the case with Sirach, Colossians arose within a cultural context, the Roman Empire. It was a context that was anything but friendly, or even accommodating, for Christians.
To assume from this reading that early Christianity belittled women, or tolerated conditions that suppressed or even hurt women, is shortsighted. The reading came from a time in which women were little higher than livestock. Marriage was a reality in the Roman society, but women did not themselves choose their husbands. Men virtually bought their wives, in many cases. Wives were relegated to the roles merely of providing offspring and of furnishing outlets for their husband’s natural desires.
It was a reality disgusting for Christians. The epistle actually elevates women, as Jesus elevated women. Women were not objects, but persons. Christian women had holy vocations to fulfill.
St. Luke’s Gospel provides the last reading. It is a story unique to Luke, not appearing in the other Gospels. As has been heard or read so often in this story, Jesus was a boy of 12 years of age, at the doorstep of adulthood, with Mary and Joseph in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover.
When Mary and Joseph were returning home, they realized that Jesus was missing. Understandably anxious, they returned to Jerusalem to look for Jesus. They found Him in the temple discoursing with the scholars, who were amazed at the marvelous knowledge of Jesus.
He alluded to the messianic mission when questioned by Mary. He was sent to accomplish the plan of God.
On this feast, the Church builds upon the family love so evident at Christmas.
This feast day’s readings provide several important lessons. The first is the need to make love for God central in families and in marriages. Second, all of us are here to accomplish the plan of God, for us personally and for the world.
Devotion to serving God’s plan led Mary and Joseph to return to Jerusalem to search for Jesus. They knew that God had entrusted to them the Savior of the world.
The Gospel reaffirms the divine character of Jesus. In the temple confines, with learned scholars, Jesus surprised all with the depth of His knowledge. It was a knowledge rising from divine wisdom.
Jesus tells Mary that His messianic mission is supreme. Our mission is to secure salvation for ourselves and to reveal to others God’s love.
Finally, the scholars themselves are examples. They pondered deeply how best to know God and to serve God.
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.